The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to yout;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
(Numbers 6:24-26 ESV)
This is a picture of the delight of the Lord in His people. He delights in His people. It’s an indication of His pleasure in His people. It’s an indication of His presence and His communion and His approval of His people. Think of a grandchild coming to visit a grandparent, and the delight that that child experiences in seeing the delight of that grandparent in that child, and you get a feel for what’s being said here. “The Lord make His face to shine upon you.”
And remember that this was a personal experience of Moses. Moses knew what it was to have the favor of God so come upon him that when he came down from the mountain his own face was shining – to the point that it scared the Israelites and he veiled his face, because he had experienced the favor and the approval and the affirmation and the encouragement and the pleasure and the communion with the living God. God delighted in him. And think how important that was to Moses, because Moses throughout his ministry had to look at the faces of his people when they did not delight in him, and he had to remember that it was not his job to desire them to delight in him, but it was his job to take care that the delight that he sought was his Father’s delight in them, so that he could serve their best interests even when they didn’t delight in him. And isn’t that so important for us to understand?
John Piper recently wrote:
“Would you pray with me that hundreds among us would embrace being hated for the sake of love? If your driving motive [Piper goes on to say] in this life is to be liked and loved, you will find it almost impossible to be a Christian. Missionaries are people who have decided that being loved by God is enough to enable love. We don’t need to seek the approval and the liking and the affirmation of others. It may feel good, but it is not essential. Loving, not being loved, is essential.”
Now that’s a provocative thing to say, and we have to give it all kinds of qualifications, but you understand what he’s getting to. If you know the approval of the Father, it enables you to love the world even when the world hates you. But if you want the approval of the world, you may have to cease loving the world in order to get it. Cease loving the world except in the way that God calls you to love them: loving them in the sense of telling them the truth, telling them the gospel. We live in a tolerant society that’s very intolerant, and one of the things that this tolerant society won’t tolerate is people who tell them, “One way! Jesus Christ! Heaven or hell devolves on Him, on your trust in Him.” They hate that message, and they may very well hate you even for believing that message, much less telling them. But if you love them like God wants you to love them, you will believe and tell them that message. The only way you’ll be able to do that is if you long for the delight of the Father’s face more than you long for the delight of the world’s face towards you. In other words, the only way that you can really love them is to not care whether they love you or not. The only way that you can really love them is to know that your Father loves you, and therefore you are ready to take their hate for the sake of love. And we learn this right here in Numbers 6.